Tina Fey's stellar NBC sitcom 30 Rock led all shows and made history with a record 22 nominations. But outside of that network triumph, once again, cable TV dominated the prime-time Emmy award nominations announced Thursday in most major categories.
Premium cable channel HBO led the field with a total of 99 nominations, while NBC finished a distant second with 67. HBO ran away from the pack with its superiority in movies and mini-series. Grey Gardens, a film starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange as two eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Onassis, earned 17 nominations alone. Taking Chance and Generation Kill, two productions related to the conflict in Iraq, combined for another 21.
In an effort to widen the field, the Emmys increased the number of nominees in major categories this year, and there were seven for best drama and best comedy each. Cable swamped the networks in the most prestigious category of best drama.
Two of the top drama nominations went to basic cable channel AMC for Breaking Bad and Mad Men. The latter won the Emmy in 2008 and ran up 16 nominations Thursday -- second only to 30 Rock in the number of Emmys for any series.
In addition to being nominated as best drama series, Mad Men also made the cut in the categories of best actor for Jon Hamm and best actress for Elisabeth Moss.
And in a perfect blend of network excellence meets cable greatness, Hamm also is nominated for a guest-starring role on 30 Rock.
Other cable nominess in the realm of best drama are HBO's Big Love, Showtime's Dexter and FX's Damages.
The lone network nominees for best drama are ABC's Lost and Fox's House.
All in all an impressive group, though some folks are sure to be arguing about the snub for the final season of FX's The Shield. HBO's True Blood also came up short.
Among the biggest surprises were those in the category of best comedy where HBO's Flight of the Conchords and Fox's Family Guy were among those named.
Conchords is mainly thought of as an off-beat niche program, while Family Guy is only the second animated comedy to ever be nominated. The first was The Flintstones in 1961. Since it lost that year to The Jack Benny Show, Family Guy could be the first animated series to ever win the Emmy.
But it will be a huge uphill struggle against 30 Rock, which won last year and again brought some much-needed prestige back to network TV with its record setting performance Thursday.
In addition to the nod as best comedy series, the sictom about a fictional TV show also picked up nominations for best comedy actress for Fey and best comedy actor for Alec Baldwin.
Competing against 30 Rock, Family Guy and Conchords for the best comedy trophy will be NBC's The Office, Showtime's Weeds, HBO's Entourage and the CBS series How I Met Your Mother.
Besides Baldwin, the contenders for best lead actor in a comedy are Steve Carrell (The Office), Jemain Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Charlie Sheen (Two and Half Men) and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory).
Parsons served as co-host of the Emmy nominations announcement show Thursday along with Chandra Wilson, who also picked up a nomination -- for her dramatic supporting work in Grey's Anatomy.
Beside Fey, best actress nominees in comedy are Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?), Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program), Mary Louise-Parker (Weeds), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine) and Toni Collette (The United States of Tara).
Another of the most prestigious categories is best lead actor in a drama series. Competing against Mad Men's Hamm are last year's winner, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad,) Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Laurie for (House), Gabriel Byrne for (In Treatment) and Simon Baker for (The Mentalist).
Along with Mad Men's Moss, the nominees s for lead actress in a drama series are Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), last year's winner, Glenn Close (Damages) Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Holly Hunter for (Saving Grace). All but Field and Hargitay are in cable series.
HBO ran the table on movies and miniseres. Grey Gardens, starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, scored 17 nominations -- tying the record for the most Emmy nominations for a made-for-TV movie. Other big winners for HBO were the movies Taking Chance, with 10 nominations, and Into the Storm, with 14.
Generation Kill, which was adapated and executive produced by Baltimore's David Simon and Ed Burns was nominated as best mini-series. (see related post) Simon received a solo nomination in the category of best writing for a movie, mini-series of dramatic special for an episode of the seven-part series that he wrote.
Taking Chance and Generation Kill both dealt with aspects of the war in Iraq, an indication of the kind of socially conscious programming HBO provides.
Another writer with Baltimore ties, Robin Veith, was nominated foe the second year in a row for her work on AMC'ss Mad Men.Read an extended interview I did with Veith here.
The Emmy voters also took notice of a long-time TV actress in posthumously nominating Farrah Fawcett in the category of outstanding nonfiction special for Farrah's Story, the NBC documentary she made with friend, Alana Stewart, about her battle with cancer. Fawcett died last month at age 62.
Click here for a list of all nominees listed in alphabetical order by category.
The 61st annual Prime Time Emmy Awards telecast will air Sept. 20 with Neil Patrick Harris as host.